The Third Sunday of Easter; Year C (4/18/2010)
Lessons:Acts 9:1-6 [7-20] Psalm 30 (11) Revelation 5:11-14 St. John 21:1-19
Prayer of the Day Eternal and all-merciful God, with all the angels and all the saints we laud your majesty and might. By the resurrection of your Son, show yourself to us and inspire us to follow Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
9:1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
Acts 9:1-20 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Paul wasn’t just a hired hand. When he made his way down the Damascus Road, papers in hand, he wasn’t headed out of town to do someone else’s bidding. He was on a personal mission from God (apologies to Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi). Acts describes him as “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” He wasn’t following orders. He was following his own passion. He hated what these people — these members of “The Way” — were up to. He determined, all on his own, that he would do whatever was necessary to put a stop to them. That’s what made him so dangerous.
And that’s what makes this story all the more remarkable. Certainly the conversion of St. Paul is remarkable — that is why the church has set aside a day each year to remember that conversion: January 25 is the Festival of the Conversion of Saint Paul. His coming to faith in Christ was dramatic, and influenced the early church in ways that are perhaps more profound than we might realize. It is a great story. We continue to give thanks for his life and his ministry and his witness to the resurrection.
But just as remarkable (or, perhaps, even more remarkable) than Paul’s conversion is the extraordinary faith and courage of Ananias. We know almost nothing about this man. He is a different Ananias than the one we’ll meet in chapter five. He is certainly a different man than the High Priest of the same name featured in chapters 23 and 24. All we know about him is that he is a disciple of Jesus and living in Damascus — and he knows a thing or two about Saul’s past.
A faithful man, Ananias receives a message in a vision, and he is aware that this message is from God. This message directs Ananias to go to where the most dangerous man in Damascus is holding up. This Saul: who has done great evil to other members of “The Way.” This Saul: who is aggressive enough to have obtained orders from the chief priests that allow him to apprehend anybody in Damascus who is a believer in Jesus, bind them, and bring them back to Jerusalem where they can be interrogated. In a vision, God directs Ananias to meet with this very Saul. Ananias is understandably reluctant, but God is persistent. The miracle of the story is that Ananias does the unthinkable. He ignores the danger. He ignores his own better judgment. He ignores the fact that this goes against everything that makes sense to him.
Ananias follows the urging of the Holy Spirit. He meets with Saul. He lays hands on him and heals him of his blindness. Through those faithful hands the Holy Spirit moves, and the ministry of the church’s first great evangelist begins.
That’s the way it is with the movement of the Holy Spirit. Even the most faithful of believers can’t anticipate when it will begin to blow. Believers are often surprised at where it comes from and where it takes them. Yet the presence of the Holy Spirit was the strength of the early church. And an openness to the Holy Spirit was the hope of the church’s members.
We live in a world that is separated from those first disciples of Jesus by many miles and many years. Yet God’s Spirit continues to blow in our world today. Our call is to stay open to the Spirit’s word, even when (especially when?) it calls us to a new way of seeing and a new way of believing.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel
- What was surprising about Saul’s conversion?
- What was surprising about Ananias and his willingness to reach out to Saul?
- How did the ministry of Paul (formerly Saul) impact the life of the early church?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- When have I been surprised at something the Holy Spirit accomplished in my life?
- Where do my own determined convictions blind me to what the Holy Spirit may be doing today?
- How can I be more open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in my life?
David J. Risendal, Pastor